- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Lakers opened up the playoffs with a statement game from Andrew Bynum, who put up 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against the Thunder in Game 1 of the first round after sitting out almost a month because of a strained left Achilles tendon.
The 7-foot center suffered a slight tear of the lateral meniscus in his right knee late in the series against Oklahoma City but wouldn't let it slow him down, averaging 12.5 points and 12 rebounds in the first two games of the second round against Utah.
The knee might have finally caught up to him.
The 22-year old addressed reporters after Tuesday's practice, which he did not take part in, with flip flops on his feet and an ice bag on his knee.
"I feel fine," Bynum said a day after opening up the conference finals with four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes of play. "I just finished getting some treatment done on it, and [there's] a lot less swelling."
The decrease in swelling is great news considering Bynum said the condition of his knee had worsened in the six days between the Utah and Phoenix series, but with his averages dipping to 3.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in his last three games, the Lakers are cautious to count on Bynum's production increasing.
"I really have no idea," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said when asked how Bynum might respond in Game 2 on Wednesday. "We hope we can get him going again at halftime. I think sometimes the activation is good at the start of the game and the second half, he came out and I didn't think had quite as much activity as we like him to have."
Bynum had all four of his points and three of his rebounds in the first half Monday, including a power dunk that Amare Stoudemire wanted no part of in the first quarter.
"It's just pain and just trusting it to jump off it," Bynum said were the lingering issues with his knee.
Bynum wasn't needed by the Lakers in Game 1, as the team shot a blistering 58 percent from the field and led by as many as 28 in the second half before winning by 21, but his big body combined with Pau Gasol's 7-foot frame is what sets Los Angeles' size above from the rest of the four remaining teams in the playoffs.
"With Andrew in there we'll have a bigger presence and more size, obviously," Gasol said. "We'll see how his knee continues to develop. We hope that he's feeling healthier and the knee doesn't limit him as much. It's a tough series for him. There's a lot of up and down, a lot of pick and rolls and he's going to have to work extra hard to be out there and be effective."
Bynum practiced only once during the time off between the conference semifinals and conference finals, but said he planned to practice Friday after taking Thursday off following Game 2.
"I think it's about trying to be as aggressive as you can with the current situation," Bynum said. "For me I've just got to go out and play.
"For me, really, I'm just going out there trying to get anything going, anything at all."
Artest takes it off
Ron Artest played without any pad on his sore left shoulder and heavy tape around his sprained left thumb Monday and the stripped-down look worked for him as he scored 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting.
"I was supposed to take [the tape] off about two months ago," Artest said Tuesday. "We just kept it on, finally we just took it off. They just told me to take it off."
After starting the playoffs scoring 57 points in his first seven games, Artest has scored 55 points in the last four. He has upped his averages from 8.1 points on 35.7 percent shooting in those first seven games to 13.8 points on 42.3 percent from the field in the last four.
Jackson said he isn't ready to say Artest has turned the corner in finding his shot.
"Let's just say it's a game-by-game basis right now," Jackson said. "If they're going to give him shots, I want him to be prudent and use good judgment on the type of shots he wants to take, keep us in our offense if it's early in the clock and keep us playing the pace we want to play."
Immigration law backlash?
Jackson said his comments made against the Phoenix Suns' stance on the Arizona immigration bill have not been a distraction to his team, but he was greeted by protestors when he drove out of Staples Center Monday night.
"I noticed a group of maybe 30 or so people that were waiting for people to drive out and I heard some comments as I drove by," Jackson said. "Other than that, there has been nothing to affect our team."
Said Gasol: "We try to focus as much as possible so we can do our job the best once we're playing the game and once the game is over, you can start thinking about other stuff -- personal, political, etc."
Gasol's Nash impersonation
Gasol grew up playing point guard in Spain and at Tuesday's practice showed up doing his best Steve Nash impersonation. Not because of how he played, but because of how he looked.
Gasol was sporting a dark black eye he received in the third quarter in Game 1 while falling on the floor for a loose ball.
"The guy fell on my face," Gasol said. "I think it was Grant Hill."
When asked if he was now tougher than Nash, Gasol said, "No, not for my black eye at least. For my persona, maybe. I don't know."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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